TMJ is a chronic pain condition. It goes beyond simple jaw pain–it can cause headaches and other widespread symptoms. In some cases, TMJ can even become disabling.
Home care for TMJ is optimal, but not all strategies are effective.
One piece of advice you might hear for TMJ is that you should perform particular exercises. But is there support that this is an effective approach for TMJ pain.
Some Studies Report Benefits
There hasn’t been enough research into the treatment of TMJ for us to make conclusions about exercise as a treatment for TMJ. However, there are some studies that look at this question. One of these studies compares exercise to the use of an oral splint (mouthguard) for TMJ treatment. The study showed that both treatments were effective at:
- Increasing jaw opening
- Reducing pain on opening
- Reducing overall pain
- Improving overall function
Another study showed that people with osteoarthritis in their temporomandibular joint might benefit from exercise, seeing a reduction in pain and impairment.
Overall Reviews Not Optimistic
Although some studies show benefit, the overall review of the use of exercise in treating chronic pain is not so optimistic. A recently published Cochrane Review looks at this question. Cochrane reviews are considered the gold standard of evidence-based medicine, since they perform a systematic review of all available evidence on a particular question.
In this review, researchers looked at all available evidence on the use of exercise to treat chronic pain conditions (such as TMJ). Their findings?
There is slight evidence that exercise might improve chronic pain severity. It might also improve function. It is unlikely to result in an improved quality of life.
However, the study also noted that exercise is unlikely to cause any harm in patients who want to try it for their chronic pain. As a result, it seems reasonable that people might want to pursue exercise for the TMJ system to try to reduce their daily pain. Talk to a doctor and/or dentist first, and see if it helps.
A Treatment We Know Works
Although it’s hard to recommend exercise for TMJ, we can unreservedly recommend TMJ treatment in our office. We have treated many patients, helping them to reduce or eliminate TMJ symptoms. We use a combination of approaches that can not only eliminate your short-term symptoms, they can keep it from coming back. Best of all, most of these treatments are noninvasive and reversible.
TENS treatment allows us to relax and soothe your tense muscles. Sometimes, this is all you need.
Oral splints are proven to be effective on TMJ pain, and they’re simple to use. You may only have to wear one at night to see results.
Myofunctional therapy is a kind of exercise, but it’s more than simple working of your muscles. Instead,the goal is to stimulate your body’s natural development mechanisms to expand your jaw and make it more functional. This doesn’t just work your muscles, it helps your muscles work.